29 people arrested
Twenty-nine people have been arrested and CA$1m (US$752,800) in cash seized after Canadian police raided a CA$9m (US$6.8m) mansion allegedly operating as an illicit casino. Along with the cash, police also seized 11 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition, CA$1.5m (US$1.1m) million in alcohol, and the house itself.
York Regional Police (YRP) announced details of their months-long Project End Game investigation at a news conference outside the mansion in Markham, Ontario on Wednesday. Police said the 20,000 square-foot Decourcy Court mansion, which occupies two-acres of land in a quiet, affluent suburb, fronted a major underground gambling operation.
kitchen serving banned items, including braised shark fin
YRP announced over 70 charges on Wednesday connected to the investigation after tactical officers initially stormed the premises on July 23. Officers discovered dozens of gamblers at slot machines and mahjong tables, as well as at a cash bar arrayed with thousands of bottles of premium alcohol and a kitchen serving banned items, including braised shark fin.
YRP posted a tweet yesterday including surveillance and video footage of the raid and assets seized at the CA$9m property.
Police sting in raids
Standing outside the gates of 5 Decourcy Court yesterday, YRP deputy chief Brian Bigras told reporters: “This is organized crime truly exploiting and demonstrating their money, their positions and opulence thinking somehow that they are above the law.”
The sting began in May 2020, when the YRP Intelligence Unit and the Guns, Gangs and Drug Enforcement Unit launched an investigation centering on illegal gaming dens. As information on illegal underground casinos dotted around the York region emerged, Project End Game was initiated.
“While the total value of these seizures is significant, this is only the start of our efforts to dismantle organized crime groups […] operating illegal gaming operations in York Region,” said YRP chief Jim MacSween.
Shades of The Godfather
According to reports by The Guardian, Wei Wei, the owner of the Decourcy property, faces several charges, including operating a betting establishment, illegal possession of a firearm, and selling alcohol without a license. Wei Wei’s wife, Xiang Yue Chen, is charged with selling alcohol and “keeping possession of proceeds of crime.” Charges for various crimes were also handed out to the couple’s two children.
York police had to call off a previous raid at Decourcy Court, when aerial surveillance revealed a scene reminiscent of The Godfather. Footage showed what police believed to be a private event, with armed guards posted around the two-acre property. Because children were also reported at the site, the planned raid was called off.
mansion may have hosted a probable sex-trafficking operation
YRP also believes the mansion may have hosted a probable sex-trafficking operation. MacSween said that the money passing through illegal casinos gives criminals enough profits to fund prostitution and drug trafficking ventures.
So far, the investigation has seen 45 people arrested and 33 charged with over 70 criminal offenses. Project End Game is on-going, and MacSween said the YRP will continue its crackdown on organized crime in the York region, using “every tool at our disposal, including forensic accounting, to ensure these criminals are held accountable.”